Apple responds to concerns over 'smartphone addiction' in children

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In this December 17, 2017, photo, a baby girl plays with a mobile phone while riding in a NY subway.

While there's no word on how it will implement measures to stop children from whiling away the hours tapping on the iPhone 8, or spending too much time being an animated unicorn through the iPhone X's Face ID tech, Apple said it has "new features and enhancements" in the works to add more functionality to parental controls and make them more robust.

It added: "We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them". "We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids".

Apple's announcement for change comes a day after a pair of shareholders argued that the company doesn't do enough to tackle phone addiction among young people and children.

Apple is defending itself this week after some of its largest shareholders went public with a request for the company to make technology that would empower more parents to control smartphone use among kids.

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They urged the company to design more intuitive ways for parents to safeguard their children's devices, and called for them to build a committee of experts "to assist additional research efforts". Apple said that parents can block or restrict things they don't want their children to see or download.

While conducting research on the situation, CalSTRS and Jana partnered with experts Dr. Michael Rich, founding director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Professor Jean M. Twenge, psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book iGen. Another study found that young people who are addicted to their smartphones have an imbalance in brain chemicals that could lead to insomnia.

"Professor Twenge's research shows that US teenagers who spend 3 hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely, and those who spend 5 hours or more are 71 percent more likely, to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than 1 hour", the letter states.

While the letter acknowledges there's no definitive evidence to suggest any problems arise from lengthy use of smartphones, it notes that the average American teenager gets "her" (an interesting gender assumption...) first phone at 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day using it. Twenge said. "If there's even a chance that high levels of screen time have something to do with the rising teen suicide and depression rate, that's a big risk".